How and Why to Use Detail Shots of Your Art

by Carolyn Edlund

When you share additional photos of your art, you give the viewer a deeper experience. These artists use detail shots to give insight into their work in different ways.


Detail, "Owl Person" sculpture by artist Blue Fire MacMahon

Detail, “Owl Person” sculpture by artist Blue Fire MacMahon


Bring out the emotional connection

Want to grab attention? Use the eyes to do it. They pull in the viewer, share a mood, and send a message. This example, a detail photo of a ceramic sculpture by artist Blue Fire MacMahon, is a gentle invitation to view her collection of wise and spiritual owls.


"The Guard" stained glass and mixed media mosaic by Cherie Bosela; right, detail shot

“The Guard” stained glass and mixed media mosaic by Cherie Bosela; detail shot, right


Highlight the main focus of the piece

A composition that is busy can be difficult to really “get” when seen in an overall photo. Artist Cherie Bosela chose to photograph her detail shot of the spider in this work at an angle. It serves to not only draw attention to the star of the show, but also shares the relief in her technique and the layers of glass and mixed media that she uses.


"Two Hoot Owls" by artist Eleanor Goudreau; detail on right.

“Two Hoot Owls” by artist Eleanor Goudreau; detail shot, right.


Show the complexity of the technique

Does your art include incredible detail? Showcase that fact by using a photograph that shares every tiny brushstroke or precise line. Artist Eleanor Goudreau enhances her presentation of “Two Hoot Owls” with a close-up shot that astonishes the viewer with the attention to detail.


"Adam Naming the Animals" by Rosemarie Adcock; detail shot, left

“Adam Naming the Animals” by Rosemarie Adcock; detail shot, left


Add insight to the story

The presentation of a complex painting that shares a story or allegory often needs detail shots to help the viewer understand every element. In artist Rosemarie Adcock’s “Adam Naming the Animals” we witness Adam in this familiar biblical story. But where is Eve? The artist shares a detail photo that not only answers that question, but inspires the viewer to look more closely at the entire painting.


"Through the Grass" by fiber artist Darryl Dancer Wade; detail on right

“Through the Grass” by fiber artist Daryl Dancer Wade; detail shot, right


Emphasize the materials used

If your work isn’t being seen in person, a detail shot can unravel the mystery of how it’s made and the materials used. Canadian artist Daryl Dancer Wade creates woven canvases with various fibers; the close-up photo helps the viewer understand this. Warp and weft threads are evident in the background, with applique overlaid on top.


"Science Fiction 2" pencil drawing by artist James Becker; detail right

“Science Fiction 2” pencil drawing by artist James Becker; detail shot, right


Define the scale

Is your artwork filled with minute images that show proficiency in working at a small scale? This is a perfect time to use a detail shot! Artist James Becker emphasizes the size of images in the work by including a penny in the photograph to demonstrate the incredible complexity of his drawing “Science Fiction 2” – which took years to complete.


Detail of Platter with Crow by artist Patricia Griffin

Detail of Platter with Crow Motif by artist Patricia Griffin


Demonstrate expertise

Ceramic artist Patricia Griffin is a master at sgraffito, a technique of carving into a surface to reveal layers below to create detail in a design. Not many other artists equal her skill. This detail shot reveals every beautiful line and mark.


"Hope #20" oil on canvas, by artist Maiyap, detail shot, right

“Hope #20” oil on canvas, by artist Maiyap, detail shot, right


Show depth and texture

Paintings aren’t necessarily flat, and in the case of artist Maiyap, they never are. She uses palette knives to create layer upon layer of texture. Detail shots help her to show this distinctive element of her signature style. Seeing the close-up photo makes you believe you can almost touch and feel the texture of her work!


"Unfinished Stories" by artist Sherry Karver, detail shot, right

“Unfinished Stories” by artist Sherry Karver, detail shot, right


Clarify the concept

A detail photo can help you convey the idea behind your work. Artist Sherry Karver imagines the inner dialog of individuals in a crowd, and uses text to share the narrative superimposed on the figures in her digital art. A closeup shot enlarges that text, giving the viewer a deeper look at that narrative, and her concept.


"Blob Flower Garden" by artist Kristin Doner; detail shot, right

“Blob Flower Garden” by artist Kristin Doner; detail shot, right


Reveal hidden details

Quite often, a tiny detail can make all the difference in artwork. It may be a “secret” to intrigue the viewer or delight the collector. Kristin Doner uses her own fingerprints when creating some of her art, which makes it very personal indeed. This is clearly shown through the use of her detail photos.


"Healing Zinnia" by artist Lisa Jaworski, detail shot, right

“Healing Zinnia” by artist Lisa Jaworski, detail shot, right


Share a message

Words are powerful, and are often used by artists to add value to their work. Artist Lisa Jaworski includes inspirational quotes or scripture in many of her mixed media paintings, but they cannot always be easily read by viewing a photo of the overall piece. Each detail shot gives the viewer a closer experience of the message embedded in her art.


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  1. Ann Butler says

    Art is so beautiful, it comes from the heart of the Artist. Abstract is what I do as well as Photography Impression Art. This Art I was just looking at is beauty in its own right. It amazes me. I stand in awe, and tip my hat to all these artist.

  2. Thanks for some really great insight into the benefits of showing a detail image. Many pieces on a small computer screen lose their impact. A detail shot can really help the viewer get a better understanding of the piece.

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